No Place Like Home?

Last updated : 30 November 2004 By Dave Roberts

That’s how my mind works in my professional life, and I like to think that this level-headedness extends to my outlook outside the workplace as well.

Like many other fans, my initial reaction to the news that Burnley Football Club were planning to sell Turf Moor and Gawthorpe was that of shock and disbelief. However, I am still prepared to give the benefit of the doubt to somebody that has already done so much to ensure the revival of Burnley Football Club over the last five years. There can be no doubt that Barry Kilby, like the rest of us, wants the very best for the club. However, the same could also have been said when the push was being made for the play-offs towards the end of the 2001-2 season, which is the main reason why the club over-extended financially, and found themselves with their current financial difficulties.

Like many decisions that are taken in football, this latest move is nothing more than a gamble. It may be that the board of directors see this move as a necessity, a last resort perhaps, and it seems likely that it is considered to be the lesser of two evils. We can be sure that the decision to sell the club’s main assets to a private company and then lease them back is not something that they wanted to do, and that it is the burden of expected financial pressure that has caused this action to first be contemplated, and then to make it reality. However, by the same token is it also possible that the potential consequences of this decision have not been evaluated fully?

If Burnley are able to make the Holy Grail of the Premiership during the next ten years then it is perfectly feasible for a proportion (less than 20% at current levels) of the guaranteed TV income to be used to invoke the buy-back clause for Turf Moor and Gawthorpe. However, pause for a moment and read that last sentence again. It pre-supposes that the TV revenue that the Premiership receives from Sky will remain. The collapse of ITV Digital should be a chilling reminder to us all that nothing in football is certain any more. Who is to say that the lucrative income streams that exist now will still exist in three, five or ten years? Whereas promotion may potentially offer a way out, where would relegation leave us under the new structure? In addition, it may be that we have fewer reservations about this deal whilst Mr. Kilby remains as Chairman, but what provisions are in place in the event of this situation changing?

It is embarrassing that the way in which this proposal came into the public domain has been nothing short of a PR disaster. Anyone who has had dealings with the club over the years knows that Burnley FC is not exactly a well-oiled public relations machine, but this has never been more obvious than with this latest gaffe. Even if we were to give the benefit of the doubt to the merits of the scheme then the way in which it became known to the club’s loyal fans is nothing short of disgraceful. It is ironic that this matter wasn’t even deemed worthy to discuss with the club’s own consultative group of supporters. Even the myriad of supporters groups and the newly established supporters Trust, which could have helped to ensure that the club’s intentions were communicated in a more open and informed manner, were simply ignored. To my mind this is a massive underestimation of the fans of Burnley Football Club.

More information is required to ensure that supporters can understand the basis for taking this most radical of decisions. Although we don’t attend board meetings and will perhaps never know what goes on inside the four walls of the boardroom at Burnley Football Club, we can be sure that lack of information for those of us not privy to internal deliberations only results in mis-information on the outside.

One thing is for certain is that this proposal will become reality. It is highly unlikely now that any amount of objection at the club’s annual AGM will prevent this deal from being rubber-stamped. Whether that is right for the future of Burnley Football Club is still very much open for debate. What is certain is that it will now take some careful bridge-building by the club to repair the damage that has already been done.